Editorial

Join the ‘old school’ dad’s club! It’s good for your kids

“Dad! That is so old school!” That’s my daughter telling me when I say that I cannot listen to music she and her agemates think is the most exciting thing

  • PublishedAugust 28, 2011

“Dad! That is so old school!” That’s my daughter telling me when I say that I cannot listen to music she and her agemates think is the most exciting thing to happen since the home theatre DVD was invented.

‘Old school’, I later learn, is to be old fashioned. It is inability to stand on one leg and wear socks. It is to be a parent who does not let his kids experiment with marijuana, heroine and condoms when they can see how it’s done on the DVD borrowed from the neighbour’s son.

To be an old school is to be a parent who is not expected to know what friends his daughter keeps on Facebook; who and what they ‘tweet’ on that QWERTY Android phone you spent a small fortune to buy; and it is to be so scared that when the kids raise their voices, as parents you melt into your bedroom where you console yourselves with the hope that the kids will get busy on their new Acer laptop and forget having been offended by their parents. Things don’t happen like that mate, you’ve got to work to get some discipline and get those little brats do their arithmetic, speak and write Kiswahili and understand Neanderthal behaviour.

As an old schooler, I have refused to allow my girls go out with their friends to malls where they spend time staring into shop display windows, eat ice cream and ogle at boys who walk with their trouser pant belts on their knees.

Before you start calling me names and agreeing with my daughter and her mates, stop to think; the role models we have let our children emulate are collected from an array of TV programmes, semi-literate but ‘twanging’ radio DJs; movie stars who can barely sign their names and football heroes who will never learn the value of an academic degree so they know not the meaning of the Archimedes Principle or how Albert Einstein explained the Theory of Relativity. In other words, we have let our children emulate heroes who’ll never help them to learn the value of hard work, prudence and academic success.

As a father on the other side of forty, I constantly worry about what future my children have. When I was growing up, I had a clear target; to help extricate my family from the extreme poverty in which we lived. I haven’t truly reached this goal, but no one can say I haven’t tried as I approach the gates of my dotage.

What ambitions do our children have? Is it not true that parents are guilty of promoting a culture of conspicuous consumption, where success is measured by the amount of ‘oh’s and ‘ah’s that their children generate when they strut catwalks and say lots of nothing on radio rather than count the number of ‘A’ grades they bring home?

You might say that I am a little offside on the latter, the grades, but then which child of a failed wannabe has succeeded in academics? How many children live their wannabe parents’ dreams?

After some of my contemporaries failed to become what they wanted to be, or got lucky and got well-paying jobs because their fathers were close to someone in power, they spend their time being their children’s slaves: enrol them in six-figure-fee schools; drive them there; pay through the nose for them to spend the day playing video games and mouthing obscenities in the name of being good students of apemanship; or borrow from the bank to take them on holiday to Mauritius when they can hardly afford the air tickets and three star hotels.

I ask, in an obviously circuitous way, if we are being good examples to our children. Have we, by seeking to provide the stuff of TV soaps rather than realistic aspirations, lost our way and therefore provided the worst examples to our children?

All is not lost though. We can still redeem our children from the claws of the empty, baseless and uneducated materialism that drives them into the abyss.

As fathers, we must reclaim our manly duty to guide our children to make decisions for their own good. When you say there is no going to the mall this weekend with your mother, it should be that. When you say that no one should take your vintage Mercedes because you cannot afford the fuel, it must be appreciated, and you shouldn’t borrow to fuel that Vitz so that your little jewel can go and drink herself silly with boys high on strange substances.

As a parent, you should be man enough to inspect your daughter’s DVD collection; you should pluck some of those guts you lost in the bush on your way to the city to tell your kids that you think their so called ‘cool’ friends are nothing more than disasters waiting to happen, that they need to go to school rather than imitate musical or cinematic tabula rasas.

That is what I am doing for my daughters. That is why I am old school because I know what’s good for my children.

maneno@parents.co.ke

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